PERRY/Finance reports clue to 2015
Wednesday, February 5, 2014 12:00 AM
The qualifying deadline for the 2014 elections is still a month off, but it isn't too soon to be looking at the early indicators for the 2015 statewide elections.
The campaign finance reports covering all fundraising by state candidates and political action committees in 2013 were filed last month with two incumbents, Governor Phil Bryant and Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves showing over a million dollars cash-on-hand. Those are the types of numbers that keep only the most ardent of challengers from attempting a primary challenge and discourages Democrats hoping for momentum to take on the top two statewide officials.
Bryant raised $1,027,000 and spent $315,490 in 2013 and combined with his past balance reports $1,317,568 in the bank. Reeves has about $84,000 less in the bank than Bryant, reporting $548,575 raised last year, $166,517 spent and $1,233,628 cash-on-hand. Both offices have a limit of two terms, but both are in serving in their first term and both are expected to seek reelection.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann ranked third in cash-on-hand with $319,195. He raised $95,274 and spent $116,428 in 2013. Hosemann was planning a campaign for U.S. Senate this year in the event that incumbent Republican Senator Thad Cochran did not run again. Hosemann scrapped those plans and came out in support of Cochran when he announced plans to seek reelection. Hosemann endured several jokes about those plans as the subject of the Mississippi Press Association's Education Foundation Celebrity Roast last week. (The roast raised more than $26,000 for journalism scholarships.)
While Hosemann's campaign manager, Casey Philips missed the event due to a snowed-in flight, his remarks made it to the roast, presented by Hosemann's son, Mark. Phillips remarks began, "I had the pleasure of serving as Delbert's campaign manager on his first election in 2007, after that I moved to Washington DC where I own a small consulting firm where I make TV commercials for political candidates. The best part of Washington is...getting to live in the fancy row house Delbert brought last year, although the 'Senator Hosemann' embroidered towels that came with the place sometimes confuse my guests."
Hosemann reportedly raised money for that planned U.S. Senate campaign; however, the Federal Election Commission allows candidates to raise and spend money in an exploratory capacity (no advocacy expenses) for travel and polling and similar expenses without having to disclose those funds unless the campaign is formally launched.
State Treasurer Lynn Fitch raised $251,318 and spent $114,635 and reports cash-on-hand of $59,959. When her cash-on-hand from her 2012 report is combined with this most recent report, it appears her campaign has likely paid off the $100,000 loan she made to her campaign in May of 2011.
State Auditor Stacey Pickering reports $37,082 in the bank after raising $58,911 and spending $85,308. Cindy Hyde-Smith, Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, has $121,186 in the bank after raising $104,323 last year and spending $16,601.
Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney raised $105,850 and spent $41,854 in 2013 to increase his cash-on-hand to $164,560. Chaney and Bryant disagreed on whether the state should set up a health insurance exchange this year. Chaney, who opposes Obamacare, argued for a state-based exchange. Bryant, who opposes Obamacare, argued against that plan resulting in a federally run exchange. Expect that issue to be central to any challenger if Chaney seeks reelection.
Attorney General Jim Hood, the lone statewide elected Democrat, reported raising $92,400 and spending $85,626 last year. His cash-on-hand is $72,504. Hood told the Capitol Press Corps Stennis Luncheon last year that his plan is to seek reelection in 2015. He recently moved his family back home to Houston, Mississippi and works there in a satellite office or commutes to Jackson.
Another notable Democrat, Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, both raised and spent around $20,000 and has cash-on-hand of under $100. The disbursements appear to go toward a campaign loan.
Mississippi's two major parties each reported under $4,000 in the bank to close out the year. The Mississippi Democratic Party raised $50,853 and spent $63,867 with $3,689 cash-on-hand. The Mississippi Republican Party raised $119,891 and spent $143,109 with $3,717 cash-on-hand. The Reform Party of Mississippi raised and spent $100 with a final zero balance.
The Mississippi House Republican Conference has $15,747 in the bank. The Mississippi Senate Conservative Coalition has $4283 cash-on-hand. The Mississippi Tea Party PAC didn't raise any money and spent $52.50 to keep a balance of $785 cash-on-hand.
Legislators also filed their annual reports. Last year closed out with a number of fundraisers for Republican and Democratic incumbent alike. Expect more war chest packing this year as candidate recruitment for both sides - as well as potential primary challenges in both parties - begin to heat up before qualifying begins for the 2015 races.
Campaign finance reports can be viewed on the Mississippi Secretary of State website.
Brian Perry is a columnist for the Madison County Journal and a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.